I am loath to admit it, and today, even ashamed at the realization, but I was a travel snob. I have traveled over 50% of my professional career in the last 30 years. I firmly believed that if it could not fit in a carry-on in the overhead compartment, it wasn’t worth bringing. I would often arrive at JFK or any other large international airport and see people with huge suitcases, piles of stuff, boxes held together by ducktape and plastic wrap, people moving their lives and dreams to another place, another continent, another beginning.
I often thought of Bob Dylan’s sad and pessimistic “I Pity the Poor Immigrant”, and I, often smug, self-absorbed and aloof, considered myself the intrepid, sophisticated traveler. Some of you may have traveled with me in the past, and perhaps you detected my air of bourgeois superiority at being able to pack light, dispense with the unnecessary, and waltz on board the aircraft without the worry of checked luggage, upgraded and prioritized.
The tables were turned today, and Dylan’s immigrants had their revenge. Today I was the emigre, the dream seeker, the tired and huddled mass of luggage and too much stuff, yearning for a new and exciting, happier life. Winter clothes, coats, summer wear, suits and swimsuits, sportcoats, pants, shirts, ties, jeans, all the underwear and socks I possess, tennis shoes, dress shoes, flipflops, laptop, chargers, electric converters, wires for connecting multiple devices, an umbrella, toiletries, prescriptions…. I spent almost a week packing my possessions into two huge plastic suitcases, one silver and one lurid pentacost-purple, and two carry-on bags to begin my new life in France.
As I arrived at JFK today, I was shamed by my previous travel snobbery, humbled by the many people I had disdainfully passed in previous journeys, people whose sole desire was to live a happier life by following their desires or whims or dreams in a journey to a new, and hopefully welcoming place. Today I was the poor immigrant.
I have been anxiety-ridden all month long. Will I be “the poor immigrant… who wishes he would’ve stayed home… whose strength is spent in vain… whose tears are like rain…
whose visions in the final end must shatter like the glass…
when his gladness comes to pass”?
I think and hope not. The support I have received, from my family, my friends, colleagues, competitors, associates, and acquaintences tells me to move forward, grasp my dreams, make my future, and rely on the strengths of character and personality that brought me to the airport today fully laden with my possessions and my aspirations. Thank you all for your confidence. It inspires and thrills me. And as these days go by, I know it will sustain and nurture me as I begin a new phase of my life in France.
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